For the next few months Everyday Scholé will be focusing on planning so that you have a leisurely, restful year. So does an anxiety free homeschool sound like an oxymoron? It’s not because our family has learning in one for over a year now. Be sure and check back in the last Thursday of every month during April, May, and June so you find out how to plan a restful homeschool year for your family. This month we are focusing on how to plan your subjects for a restful year.
To ensure a year of restful learning I’ve found planning to be a necessary part of the process. I’m sure 99% of that is because of my Type A tendencies, but I’ve found a good plan helps me to be more relaxed throughout the year. When it comes to choosing what subjects to study for an upcoming year some are pretty obvious like math and language arts, but sometimes it’s difficult to decide what subjects and topics to cover for the non-essentials. Should we study Latin this year or next? Should we study Latin at all? Is logic necessary or a foreign language? What science topic or historical time period should be our focus? I came up with ten steps to follow so that you can have an anxiety free planning session for your next homeschool year.
STEP ONE: HOMESCHOOL GOALS
I guess the pre-step to this one is if you don’t have homeschool goals, then make some! My first step when I begin to plan for the year is to look at my goals. I have three big over-arching principles to help guide the overall tone of our homeschool, and I also have personal goals for each of my children. I update each child’s personal goals for the coming year and I do a quick read of my three main goals as well. Once I’ve got these in my mind I find it makes planning our subjects infinitely easier.
STEP TWO: DON’T CHANGE WHAT WORKS
I call this the #1 rule of homeschooling. If you find a curriculum that works for your child, do NOT change it no matter what other interesting, shiny, and new curriculum you see. This also makes subject planning easier for you because all you need to do is plug these curriculum into your plan for the coming year. If something is not working, however, feel free to research and read reviews to find something new that will work. A sure killer of a restful learning experience is to change what’s working or refusing to change what isn’t.
STEP THREE: LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF SUBJECTS
This is my biggest problem area when it comes to planning what we will be studying in the coming year. I love to learn and I want to learn everything. This means that I feel my children need to learn everything as well which is an impossible and anxiety producing goal. To keep myself from over-indulging, I plan out what years I want to study certain extras with the kids. For example, I know that I want to study philosophy while studying ancient Greece, and I want to cover Latin in sixth, seventh, and eighth before beginning high school foreign language. I try to keep things super simple for early elementary and slowly add things into the schedule based on interest and my requirements for my children. Overloading on how many subjects you are studying becomes a source of stress because you can’t get it all done without relaxation flying out the window!
STEP FOUR: VALUE YOUR STUDENT’S INPUT
Nothing will make your homeschool planning more simple then doing one vital thing: ask your child what they would like to study. I did this for the first time this year and the girls did a great job with feedback. The first time I asked there were crickets chirping. They had no clue. So the next time I went back I came prepared with various topics in history and science. I also showed them what I had planned for us to do. They liked my plan for history which was to study ancient history so I kept that, but they each picked a science topic to study and I chose one as well. Now my planning for those subjects was pretty much complete other than pulling resources. Quick, easy, and more restful because now my children have some ownership in their own education.
STEP FIVE: RECOGNIZE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A TEACHER
It’s a fact that some subjects we feel more comfortable teaching. For me those are the social sciences and the language arts. Math and science are out of my comfort zone for the most part. When it comes to planning your subjects and choosing curriculum knowing where you need less help in teaching and where you need more assistance is hugely important to have a restful year. If your curriculum doesn’t hold your hand enough in the areas you struggle it will frustrate you and make school stressful. On the other side a curriculum that is too scripted and planned in areas where you feel more comfortable might feel stifling. It doesn’t matter how awesome the curriculum is supposed to be. If it doesn’t work for you as a teacher it will only cause repeated problems through the year.
STEP SIX: CHOOSE DOUBLE DUTY CURRICULUM
One of the best ways to make a relaxing year is to have some of your curriculum cover two or more subjects instead of just one. This eases your subject load and takes less time. For example, I’m using Logic of English Foundations Level D right now with Sophia. This one curriculum covers phonics, spelling, beginning grammar, beginning writing, and beginning literature. Once we’ve finished our time with Logic of English we’ve touched on some or all of these subjects freeing up more time for other pursuits. Other common curriculum combinations are history, geography, and literature. Efficiency is definitely a contributor to a relaxed homeschool atmosphere.
STEP SEVEN: TO COMBINE OR NOT TO COMBINE
When it comes to having a low stress homeschool year, this choice could make or break you even if you get everything else perfect. The simple fact of the matter is that sometimes combining children for subjects works and sometimes it doesn’t. This will totally depend upon the personalities of your children, their ages, and their skill level. Some homeschoolers find it easier to combine their students for content subjects like history, science, geography, etc. Others find that combining their children causes more headaches and problems. I’ve been in both of these camps. I’ve combined the girls for a couple of years now, but I spent a couple of years not combining them as well because of personality difference between the two of them that just needed some time to work themselves out. I do know one thing. If you try to force your children to combine when it is not a good idea, you will pay for it all year long. If you try to keep them separate when it would actually be easier to combine, you are wasting time that could be maximized through teaching them together.
STEP EIGHT: LIMIT APPROACHES
I know that most of you probably didn’t try to use three different math programs with your child. Or two different phonics programs with your middle child. But for some reason I always find things that I like about different approaches to teaching different subjects so I felt I needed to use them all. This was a really bad and stressful decision because if you buy them, you feel you must use them. I’ve slowly weaned myself off of this, but I know that using too many different curriculum for subjects caused a lot of anxiety in our homeschool over the years. Don’t do this UNLESS you have a child who really, really enjoys a subject and just wants more and more. I have one of these children right now so I let her have all the math stuff she wants but most of it is independent things for her to do on her own time so it doesn’t stress me out with trying to cover it.
STEP NINE: BE REALISTIC
If you hate doing crafts and experiments, do not purchase a curriculum that is heavy on crafts or experiments because you will not do them. If your children hate worksheets do not purchase worksheets for every curriculum because they will whine, complain, and drag their feet. As homeschoolers we have to be realistic about what will actually get done in our homeschool. You know what your kids like. You know what you like. Choose subjects and curriculum appropriately. Trying to force your family or yourself into a box that you think should be what your homeschool is like instead of what it is reality is a recipe for disaster and a stressful homeschool year.
STEP TEN: FOLLOW THE LAW
Some states have written into their homeschool laws specific subjects that must be covered each year if you homeschool. Make sure when planning your subjects for the year that you are in compliance with the homeschool law in your state. A definite anxiety ridden experience in your homeschool year would be having a government official show up at your door asking questions!
Please hop over to Tonia and Sara’s blogs to see what my fellow Everyday Scholé bloggers have to say about planning your subjects for a restful year of learning:
Keeping anxiety at bay in the tree house,